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Avalanche Plus/Minus Game 60: Georgiev’s Best, Competition Coming



avalanche stars

As with every game, you take the good with the bad, so time to take a look at the pluses and the minuses in the game against the Dallas Stars for the Colorado Avalanche.

+ Alexandar Georgiev

It didn’t sound like Jared Bednar agreed with me yesterday morning that Georgiev has looked a little better with some more rest, but on Tuesday night, he bounced back in a big way against the Dallas Stars. The Avalanche were far from perfect for the first 25 minutes of the game, and Georgiev had to hold strong to keep the score 2-1 for about 20 minutes.

Some his best stops were a sprawling left pad save in the first period off a scramble in front, a stop on Wyatt Johnston on a 2-on-1, and calmly gloving Jamie Benn’s shot in the slot in the second. He also had to make quite a few stops on deflections, as the Stars love throwing it at the net with traffic everywhere. Georgiev outplayed someone who is considered to be one of the top goalies in the NHL, and that’s something we haven’t said a ton this year.

Consistency is going to be key down the stretch for Georgiev, as well as more rest. I imagine Justus Annunen will start one of the games on this road trip, and that start might come as early as tomorrow against the Chicago Blackhawks. More time off isn’t a bad thing, as long as Annunen can hold up his end of the bargain.

+ Bowen Byram

You can really tell when the staff likes Byram’s game, because they throw him out there with everyone. In the first period alone, he took shifts with Cale Makar, Sam Girard, Jack Johnson, and Josh Manson. Part of that could have been because the Girard-Manson pairing got off to a pretty slow start, but Byram was also skating with the puck a lot, which is what he knows he needs to do.

Whatever was shown in that meeting with Nolan Pratt a while back seems to have worked.

+ Andrew Cogliano, Chris Wagner, and Joel Kiviranta

Injuries will almost certainly occur down the stretch, but when Valeri Nichushkin returns to the lineup (likely some time next week), someone will have to come out, and the easy target is Joel Kiviranta. He hadn’t scored in nearly three months, and his role on the penalty kill could easily be occupied by Nichushkin, who plays everywhere.

On Tuesday night, Kiviranta finally broke through, scoring his first goal since Dec. 7, and chipping in a little bit. On the other wing was Andrew Cogliano, who suddenly has seven points in 12 games. His primary role is not to score points for this team, but any offense they can get from the fourth line is huge.

Down the middle is Chris Wagner, who picked up his first point with the Avalanche this year. On the Kiviranta goal, he drove the net, creating the lane for Cogliano to hit Kiviranta. He was also used a bit more to win face-offs on the penalty kill, replacing Ryan Johansen.

Any production from your depth is huge, and these guys are fighting to earn their spots down the stretch. Competition for ice-time is a very good thing.

– A Little Sloppy Defensively

Huge win, but this game could have easily gone the other way at the start of the second period, because the Avalanche weren’t perfect at all. The Stankhoven-Johnston pairing up front for the Stars seemed to give Colorado some real issues, and Georgiev was forced to be really strong. That’s why you pay your goaltenders, and there’s an argument to be made that the Avalanche defense was due to be bailed out by their netminder a little bit, but with games getting tighter, the team will have to lock things down in the final 22 games. There’s still work to be done.

+ Mikko Rantanen

Rantanen was close to breaking out in the Toronto game, but the tough penalty at the end left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. He moved past it on Monday, as he was great in the locker room to talk to, and on Tuesday night, played a really strong game.

I missed this stat on Saturday, but he’s the first Avalanche player ever to have four straight 30 goal seasons. Given the talent that has come through this franchise, that’s pretty remarkable.

– Parise Turnovers

Small nitpick, but Zach Parise had some really ugly turnovers early in this game that could have easily cost the team. At one point, he lost the puck along the wall in the defensive zone, and it created a 2-on-0 down low for the Stars. Luckily, Matt Duchene waited way too long to make a decision with the puck, allowing the Avalanche defenders to get back to not even allow a shot. A few minutes later, Parise lost the puck in the neutral zone, which almost sprung Mason Marchment for a breakaway while the defense was changing. He got bailed out by a bouncing puck, as Marchment put himself offside. Just an example of some things that can be cleaned up.

+ Nathan MacKinnon Does It Again

Can anything else really be said about MacKinnon? Two more points, and the train keeps rolling. Bednar was very complimentary of his all-around game against the Stars, something that I think has slipped of late.

Nikita Kucherov was miraculously held to just one point, so he made up ground in the race for the Art Ross Trophy.

– Roaring 20’s Line

The Avalanche challenged this line to play against the top players on the Stars, and it didn’t work out so great. Logan O’Connor, who hasn’t quite looked the same since returning, lost a battle along the boards for the only Stars goal of the game, and the trio had the worst possession numbers on the squad. I imagine this group will continue to get tough matchups down the stretch, so they will have to be better.

+ Owning The Stars

When the playoffs roll around, regular season records don’t really matter all that much anymore, but if you’re the Avalanche, you have to be feeling pretty good about how you match up against Dallas at the moment. That’s 3-0 on the season, including arguably their two best road wins this season. There’s one more game between these two teams left, and selfishly, I’d like to see them play each other in April, because the games have been very entertaining.

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